Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pandora's Box by Alice Thompson

This was a strange story.  Dr. Noah Close finds a burned woman on his doorstep. He is a plastic surgeon. He fixes her up and then finds her in his house. Weird! Noah names her Pandora after he finds a strange glass box in a closet. He falls in love and considers her his wife. Then she starts getting these strange notes. It changes her. Then he wakes up one night. He sees her bloody and dead. He goes to call the police but when they come there is no body. Noah is a suspect. Then he goes on some weird journey to find the killer.
I don't care for books that let you determine what everything means.

Dr Noah Close opens his door one dark night to find a woman on fire on his doorstep. She is without name, voice or past. Noah rescues her, heals her broken, burned body and makes her his wife. He calls her Pandora. But was Pandora ever made to live quietly among men? Her disappearance, bloody and mysterious implicates Noah who finds himself on the run and on a journey that takes him far from his clinical, ordered life to a private eye named Venus. Through the hot, dry desert Venus leads him to the lush depravity of Las Vegas, where nothing is what it seems, most particularly Lazarus who presides darkly seductive over the casino. Convinced that Lazarus holds the truth about Pandora, Noah pursues shifting shapes and truths with a reckless passion that endangers all whom he catches up in his search. It is Noah's ultimate fate to be damned and saved by the same truth - He that increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow. In combining allegory and odyssey in a dark, bewitching novel, Alice Thompson proves herself to be one of Britain's most exciting new talents.

Excerpt:
One night Noah was dreaming when the sound of hammering at his door woke him up and he immediately forgot his dream. He put on his dressing-gown and barefoot walked down the stairs of his house into the darkness. The carpet was soft beneath his feet, like the fur of an animal. The glass cupola above the hallway was being hammered by a thunderstorm and at first he thought it was just the sound of the rain that had woken him. A flash of lightning crossed the glass above, cracking the sky in half and illuminating the darkness inside, but there was a hammering on the front door that was louder than the storm, so he opened it.
    Flames were licking the edges of the sky in front of him and it took him a moment to realize that there was a fire burning on the doorstep of his home. It took him a further moment to make out the shape of a shadowy figure standing in the midst of the flames, making a star pattern with its limbs. Noah went into the flames to pull the figure out, without hesitating, but the flames were cool and did not burn him. The body he brought out was so charred he could not tell whether it was a man or a woman. He extinguished the flames with his own body.
    The hospital stood on the top of the hill like a monastery and he drove the still breathing body, in his car, up the road that wound up like a snake from the town below. The rain lashed on to the windscreen and the lights from his headlamps were reflected in the flooded road. As Noah approached his destination, the whiteness of the clean-lined and rectangular hospital glimmered above him in the headlights, untouched by the storm that raged around it. He drove up the hospital's straight gravel path made of silver-grey shards of granite, past the flat lawn cut in a square on either side.
    Leaping out of the car, Noah ran, as if straight through the glass of the glass doors that opened silently and discreetly before him, into the empty hospital corridor.
    The mechanics of Casualty took over and he was not needed for the moment, except to say that there was a burnt woman in his car, that no, he did not know what the cause of the flames were or how the patient had got on to his doorstep; and he drove back down the hill, his car empty, listening to the sound of the windscreen wipers on the glass. He felt tired, as if he had risked too much.
    He stayed awake that night unable to get the image of the burning woman out of his mind. The intensity of the flames flickered through his memory, her silhouette more like the shadow of someone real than someone real, within the flames. He could still hear the terrible silence, except for the beating of the flames, in the night air. He could find no metaphor for her. She was just an image imprinted on his retina, like the reflection of the outside world in the pupil of an eye.

Dr Noah Close worked at that private hospital as a doctor, specializing in the reconstruction of human bodies. The hospital was usually a calm place and when Noah entered it the following morning, a sense of serenity came over him. Its organisation and complexity reminded him of the human body, but of an idealized body that never broke down, a body that was infallible. The smell of the hospital was bleached and an anesthetized The scents of the body, of sweat or excreta had been emptied out. There was no hint of mortality here for there were very few deaths. People came here to improve on their bodies, not to leave them behind.
    Everything was always silent in the hospital, except for the sound of metal clanging together like the ringing of bells in church. The corridors went on for miles, so polished that the walls and floors reflected Noah back. The wards were half full of patients silently waiting to be rebuilt.
    A few minutes after Noah had arrived at the hospital, the consultant called him into her room, to discuss the patient he had brought in the night before.
    `We still haven't managed to find out anything more about her, Noah. She hasn't regained consciousness and no one has reported her missing. To be frank, it's a miracle she's still alive. I've never seen anyone survive such extensive burns. Nor do we have any idea what actually caused the burns. The burns don't seem to have destroyed the skin tissue in the normal way. The surface of the skin has disappeared in patterns that are almost symmetrical.'
    `And we have no biographical information about her at all?'
    `No. So there's no photograph on which to base a reconstruction of her. The surgeon who took her on would havecarte blanche.'

Pages: 148
Published: 1998

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